Will I have to go to jail for a first time shoplifting offense? 23 Answers as of June 12, 2013

I was cited and have to pay restitution.

Ask a Local Attorney. 100% Anonymous. Free Answers.

Free Case Evaluation by a Local Lawyer: Click here
Freeborn Law Offices, P.S.
Freeborn Law Offices, P.S. | Steve Freeborn
It is up to judge.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Replied: 10/1/2012
Leonard A. Kaanta, P.C. | Leonard A. Kaanta
You will probably get probation.
Answer Applies to: Michigan
Replied: 10/1/2012
Gregory Casale Attorney at Law
Gregory Casale Attorney at Law | Gregory Casale
I am asked this question regularly and I usually provide a short and simple answer. However, I will take the time to give you the long version here. I hope it helps you. There is no possibility of jail for a 1st offense Shoplifting charge. The maximum sentence is a fine. However, the more important issue is the mark on your record (CORI). It may sound like a minor consequence, but a Guilty on your CORI will give you far more difficulty in life than even a short stay in jail. Typically when people are caught shoplifting, the store will detain them, call the police and then release them with the advisory that they will be getting a summons in the mail and that they will have to pay a civil penalty. Within a few weeks a summons will arrive by mail which will demand your presence for either criminal arraignment or a clerks hearing, which is also sometimes referred to as a Show Cause Hearing. If it is for arraignment it means that a criminal charge has already issued and you must appear for arraignment in district court. Once arraigned, the charge immediately appears on your CORI and the only thing left to determine is whether it will end in a Guilty, Not Guilty or a Dismissal. You obviously want to avoid the Guilty, which is a conviction. A conviction will require you to answer yes on job applications when asked if you have ever been convicted of a crime. A Yes answer is a sure rejection in most cases. A lawyer should be able to avoid a Guilty disposition for you, even if you admitted to stealing and returned the merchandise. If, on the other hand, you are summonsed into a Clerk's Hearing or a Show Cause hearing, you have a tremendous opportunity to avoid any criminal entry on your CORI. A Clerk's or Show Cause hearing is a situation in which a Clerk Magistrate listens to both sides and then decides whether or not to issue a criminal complaint. If the complaint issues, then you are arraigned in criminal court just as described above. However, if the complaint does not issue, then there is no criminal charge and no mark whatsoever on your CORI. Again, even if you admitted to the store and/or the police that you shoplifted, oftentimes a good lawyer can still avoid the issuance of the complaint. Just the mere fact that you take the charge seriously enough to hire a lawyer has an influence on most Magistrates' decisions. The standard that the Clerk uses in making their decision is Probable Cause. This means simply, was it more likely than not that the shoplifting took place. Now you might think that if you admitted to the theft then of course the standard is met; and you are right. However, the Clerk is allowed to use his or her discretion in deciding whether or not to issue a complaint. And again, the mere fact that you take the charge seriously enough to hire a lawyer has a huge influence on the Clerk in most cases. I can't count how many times I have brought a shoplifting client to a Clerk's Hearing where the client has already admitted to the theft and we still walked out without a criminal complaint. This is by no means a guarantee and I have had it happen in one or two isolated instances. However, the vast majority have been decided that no complaint will issue. The last issue is the civil demand. Most often the civil demand is mailed to the defendant after the summons. It will be carefully worded and without exactly saying so, make it sound as if paying the civil demand will somehow help you with the criminal charges. This is not the case. In fact when I represent shoplifting clients I typically advise them not to pay the demand and send a letter to the civil attorney telling them to cease and desist is harassing my client. If the merchandise was returned in saleable condition then the store suffered no civil damages and the suit would probably fail if it were to go to court. The real lesson here is to take any criminal charge very seriously. Even the most minor charge can carry terrible future consequences if not handled properly. Unfortunately, the criminal justice system is not designed for lay people. It is far more likely that a person will fare far better with a lawyer than without one. There is a saying that even an attorney who represents him or herself has a fool for a client. If you have a criminal charge, hire a lawyer. You only have one chance to get it right. Don't blow it by trying to save yourself the money. The money you save will be long ago spent and forgotten while the criminal charge lingers on your CORI and make your life difficult. Sincerely: Gregory Casale 306 Main St., 1st Floor Worcester, MA 01608 Tel.: (508) 752-7500 Fax: (508) 752-6999 gc@attycasale.com www.lawworcester.com [Description: DUI Lawyer Worcester] From: Question From LawQA [mailto:questions@lawqa.com] Sent: Thursday, September 27, 2012 9:08 AM To: Gregory Casale Subject: Question From LawQA ID:82671 ANSWER A QUESTION THAT WILL BE DISPLAYED ON MASSACHUSETTS WEBSITES ON THE LAWQA NETWORK. LAW AREA: STATE: MASSACHUSETTS ID:82671 Question: Will I have to go to jail for a first time shoplifting offense? Question Detail: I was cited and have to pay restitution. *********************************** To answer this question, please just reply to this email. The original content and subject should not be modified, otherwise your answer will not be valid.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
Replied: 9/28/2012
Steven Alpers | Steven Alpers
Do not pay the civil claim. Most judges will not order as much as the stores. want talk to a lawyer in your area each county is different.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 6/12/2013
Law Office of Brian K. Wanerman
Law Office of Brian K. Wanerman | Brian K. Wanerman
It depends on the jurisdiction and the policies of the DA's office, the court, etc. However, it seems unlikely you'll get jail time for shoplifting, unless you tried to shoplift something very valuable like jewelry. Consult an attorney in your area for specific advice regarding your case and to protect your rights.
Answer Applies to: California
Replied: 9/27/2012
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser
    Law Office of Phillip Weiser | Phillip L. Weiser
    Usually on a first time charge, you should expect to get either diversion or probation.
    Answer Applies to: Kansas
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    The Children's Law Group | Tamara Chin
    No.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 5/22/2013
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law
    Charles M. Schiff, Attorney at Law | Charles M. Schiff
    It is doubtful that you would get an executed jail sentence for a first shoplifting offense.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Law Office of Mark Bruce
    Law Office of Mark Bruce | Mark Corwin Bruce
    This will likely be broken down to an infraction theft charge and you will be given a fine. Unless the item was a very expensive one, that is.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Gates' Law, PLLC | Thomas E. Gates
    You will not get jail time. Generally, you would have to take a consumer class, do community service, make restitution, pay a fine, stay away from the business and not have any other criminal violation while on probation. You will also have to pay a civil fine to the store.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Natty Shafer Law
    Natty Shafer Law | Nathaniel Shafer
    It's possible you would have to go to jail, but most judges would not impose a jail sentence for a first time offense.
    Answer Applies to: Utah
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    MatthewR. Schutz, Esq | Matthew R. Schutz
    Probably not. There will be significant fines, and court costs. The retailer may try to collect a civil penalty
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation
    Wallin & Klarich: A Law Corporation | Paul Wallin
    This will depend upon the court in which you are appearing. In some courts, for a first offense petty theft, your lawyer may be able to have you enrolled in an "alternative" sentencing program. This program may include attendance at a shoplifters course and other conditions. You do not want a petty theft conviction on your record as it is considered a crime of "moral turpitude". A conviction will make it more difficult for you to obtain employment because employers do not want to hire people who steal
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh
    Law Office of Jeff Yeh | Jeff Yeh
    Jail is the least of your concerns. Petty theft is a crime of moral turpitude, and having it means you can kiss your employment aspirations goodbye for the next decade of your life. Hire a lawyer before you do something you will regret.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 6/12/2013
    Andersen Law PLLC
    Andersen Law PLLC | Craig Andersen
    Probably not if it is a first offense. You might even get diversion.
    Answer Applies to: Washington
    Replied: 6/12/2013
    R. Jason de Groot, P.A
    R. Jason de Groot, P.A | R. Jason de Groot
    No. Not usually do we put people in jail for shoplifting, but on the third time having been convicted, it becomes a felony. You will probably be offered a deferred prosecution agreement under which you will be required to complete community service hours, attend a class, pay fines costs and restitution, and then the case will be dismissed.
    Answer Applies to: Florida
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Law Offices of John Carney
    Law Offices of John Carney | John Carney
    In New York State you will be offered an ACD dismissal for a first offense if you retain a good criminal lawyer. If it is a first offense and you stole merchandise worth less than $150 most prosecutors will allow the case to be dismissed after you remain arrest free for 6 months and comply with any of the courts conditions such as shoplifting school or community service. In New York City the prosecutor will just dismiss the case on the first date with an ACD without any community service or shoplifting school for small amounts if you have no record at all even with a public defender because they want to get rid of as many minor cases as possible at arraignment.
    Answer Applies to: New York
    Replied: 6/12/2013
    Anderson Law Office
    Anderson Law Office | Scott L. Anderson
    Usually not. In MN you would either get stayed time or have an opportunity to keep it off of your record.
    Answer Applies to: Minnesota
    Replied: 6/12/2013
    Miller & Harrison, LLC
    Miller & Harrison, LLC | David Harrison
    It is rare for a person to go to jail for a first offense shoplifting case.
    Answer Applies to: Colorado
    Replied: 6/12/2013
    Attorney at Law | Michael P. Vollandt
    Not usually. You will get a fine and summary probation. One of the terms of probation will be to stay out of the store.
    Answer Applies to: California
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Hamblin Law Office | Sally Hamblin
    Generally as long as you have a clean prior record, no. Have the money to pay restitution when you go to court, which shows you are sincere in meeting your responsibility. If do not have all the money, try to have one-half.
    Answer Applies to: Michigan
    Replied: 9/27/2012
    Law Office of Stuart M. Nachbar, P.C.
    Law Office of Stuart M. Nachbar, P.C. | Stuart M. Nachbar
    In NJ, probably not.
    Answer Applies to: New Jersey
    Replied: 6/12/2013
Click to View More Answers:
12 3 4 Free Legal QuestionsConnect with a local attorney